>By now most everyone who is interested, knows about the outcome of Wednesday night’s Middletown Library Board meeting. After much bantering, chest beating and ideal threats by members of the Township Committee toward those who sit on the Middletown Library Board of Trustees, the members of the board decided that it was better to cave into Township demands than risk their positions as board members. By a 5 to 2 vote members of the Library Board of Trustees decided to handover nearly $500,000 worth of surplus and reserved funds to the Township, even though it may compromise the Library at a later date.
I’ve been asked by a number of people what my thought’s and feelings are about what transpired Wednesday night but I wasn’t in attendance, I worked late and couldn’t make it home in time, but after speaking with a few people that were there and reading the accounts of the meeting online at the Asbury Park Press, Redbankgreen.com and Middletown patch.com, I’ve read and heard enough to form an opinion.
I think that the integrity and independence of the Middletown Library and it’s current Board of Trustees has now and forevermore been compromised due to their majority decision of support, to handover reserved funds to the Township for little more than a veiled promise of not turning the operations of the Library over to Monmouth County and not seeking anymore funds from the Library for the rest of 2011.
Remember this controversy came to light because Library Treasurer and Trustee Sherry Miloscia, sent out an impassioned email
back on February 11th to library supporters that went viral, stating that the Township had made threats against the library and it’s Board of Trustees if they refused to hand over $1.2 million from the coffers, even though most of the money in question was restricted and not really surplus.
After that a war of words
exploded between Mayor Fiore and Library Director Susan O’Neal, each releasing statements before the February 16th Library Board meeting in which the Township wanted an answer as to how much funds they could extort, I mean expect, from the Library.
That meeting was heavily attended and many of those in attendance made impassioned pleas of their own in support of the library, it seemed that the Board of Trustees were energized and encouraged by the show of support, to stand firm against handing over anymore funds to the Township than was legally required. Unfortunately however, the firmness of the Trustees seemed to wain over the weeks as fewer supporters turned out to voice concerns at subsequent Township Committee and Library Board meetings, ultimately ending with the outcome as reported.
In succumbing to the pressure of the Township Committee, those members of the Board of Trustees that voted to hand over reserved funds over and above the verified surplus, giving all but $66,000 to the Township, broke their vow to individuals that had donated private funds in support of the library, that wished to see their endowments used for the enrichment of the library, not the Township Committee.
I suppose though that’s OK seeing how the Township has promised to fund, through bonding, projects that the Library already had the funds to pay for upfront and will now be required to reimburse the Township for afterwards, like the parking lot expansion and solar panel projects that the Library already started planning for and spent money on.
What incentive does the Library Board of Trustees now have to save and run the library prudently or build surplus funds for capital projects and rainy day items like new computers or furnishing for the comfort and enjoyment of their customers, the Middletown residents? None I would say, because anytime that perceived funds exist that seem to be over and above the legal amount set by the state in which the library can hold in surplus, the Middletown Committee will be looking to confiscate it. And with this being the case, why would any private individual donate funds to the Middletown library every again? A fundraiser for the library you say, well good luck with that. No one in their right mind could ever support such a thing again.
The only two Board Trustees that I can honestly say came out off this situation with their integrity intact are Board President and Vice President Randal Gabrielan and Gregory Milne. They opposed this transfer of funds on the grounds that it was excessive and would compromise the Library down the road.
They didn’t roll over out of fear of losing their board positions, like a few of the people I talked to suggested the other board members had.
Gabrielan and Milne were not impressed and didn’t feel threatened by fellow Board Trustee, Township Committeeman Kevin Settembrino, with his silver and slippery tongue. They understand the consequence that this action represents, which is that forevermore, the library will no longer be seen as an independent entity, free from political preying hands and political whims of those that run the Township.
I wouldn’t be surprised by the fact that when Randal Gabrielan and Gregory Milne’s terms expire as Library Trustees, they will not be re-appointed. Current Township Committee members made that abundantly clear when they expressed displeasure with Trustees on the night of February 16th, when those members made statements to the effect that they had appointed the trustees to the the library board and they were shocked by the trustees behavior.
Time will tell whether or not the Library Board of Trustees made the right decision in selling out to the Township. Everyone knows that the Township Committee is short sighted in many of thing that they do, this money grab is no different, next year and the year after that, and the year after that, Middletown will still be looking at structural problems within its operating budget with nowhere else left to turn.